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Watch Artifacts online: Episode 2 Sacred Spaces

A very long time ago, far away in China, a villager living along the banks of the Yellow River built a simple mud hut to shelter his family. Thousands of years later in the year 1420, the empire's best craftsmen put the final touches on the ultimate masterpiece of Chinese architecture - the Temple of Heaven. Chinese buildings evolved from simple shelters into complex, magnificent structures with great, swooping roofs, stately columns, and rich detail. Between this simple mud hut and this amazingly complex structure - its every detail full of cosmological symbolism - is a tale of emperors, monks, scholars and genius craftsmen - a story which explains an architectural tradition of great beauty and flexibility. And to start this story at the beginning, we have to leap back two millennia, to when the brilliant tyrant Qin Shihuang becomes the first emperor of a unified China.

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